Kathleen Parker: Silent on rape no more

BY KATHLEEN PARKER Published: March 18, 2013
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As Hargitay put it, the rape victim's body is a living, breathing, feeling crime scene. “After a four- to six-hour invasive exam, you'd think they'd be eager to process.” Instead, old attitudes persist, relegating rape kits to cold storage and awarding rapists free passes.

Persistence has paid off

In a time of cost-cutting and smaller staffs — not to mention other immediate cases — it is difficult to argue that old rape kits urgently need to be processed. But Hargitay's persistence has paid off. In Detroit, where 11,000 rape kits have been collecting dust for as long as 20 years, 23 serial rapists have been identified from the recent processing of just 400 kits. Three resulted in convictions, according to Wayne County prosecutor Kym Worthy.

New York — which has a DNA databank that, thanks to Hargitay's lobbying efforts, includes samples from anyone convicted of a crime — has cleared its backlog of 17,000 kits. The result: an arrest rate that leapt from 40 percent to 70 percent, according to Hargitay. Similarly, Los Angeles has cleared its 12,669 kits.

There are still tens of thousands to go, but Hargitay has succeeded in demonstrating that one ticked-off cop can make a difference — even if she is only a TV cop. These days, the pretend character is learning from the real-life woman who plays her. Hargitay admitted that what you see on television is often informed by the work of her foundation. The lesson she hopes to convey is as no-nonsense as the lip-curling Olivia Benson: Rape victims are victims, period. And perps will be prosecuted.

But first, America has to say, “no more.”

WASHINGTON POST WRITERS GROUP